The classic comedy The Andy Griffith Show is regarded as one of television’s most enduring programs. That’s thanks in part to its ace cast including Griffith, Don Knotts, Ron Howard, and Frances Bavier, its stellar writing, and its fleet of directors.
One actor who moonlighted as a show director was in a popular recurring role on the comedy.
Howard Morris played Ernest T. Bass on the ‘Griffith Show’
Morris who died in 2005 at age 85 revealed to the Television Academy Foundation how it came about that he was cast as the chaotic and frenzied mountain man Ernest T. Bass on the Griffith Show. His character lived in the hills of North Carolina and would appear in Mayberry mostly to create mayhem and make demands of the sheriff.
“Aaron Ruben was now the producer of a show called The Andy Griffith Show,” he said. “He ran into a script and gave me a call and said, ‘Howie, we’ve got a problem with this character in this script and we don’t know what to do with it. Would you look at it and maybe come up with something?’ And I did.”
Morris recalled that he not only read the script introducing Ernest T. Bass; he was mightily moved by what he read.
“I read it, and I loved it and it stirred something in my groin,” the actor expressed. “I was so excited by it. I felt it was something to which I could contribute. And which could contribute to me.”
Morris directed several episodes of Griffith’s show
Among The Andy Griffith Show‘s directors were its creator Sheldon Leonard, Bob Sweeney, Richard Crenna, and Ernest T. Bass actor Morris, who was at the helm for eight of the show’s episodes. He would also go on to direct other television programs including The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched, Hogan’s Heroes, Laverne & Shirley, and The Love Boat.
During his chat with the Television Academy, Morris stopped the interview to make a special request.
“I’d like to thank the fans of The Andy Griffith Show,” he said. “They give you courage to go ahead, and they love you regardless of what. They’re there and that’s nice.”
As for what it was like for him to direct his show co-stars, he said the experience was “Fine, they were lovely actors. I didn’t have to teach anybody how to act. They were all there, totally efficient and proficient and sufficient.”
Howard Morris was ‘a far cry from anything Southern’
The actor emphasized that he was not Southern in any way. He was born and raised in the least Southern part of the country.
“Now I was born in New York City and raised in the Bronx,” he said. “Which is a far cry from anything Southern.” Turning on his well-known Ernest T. Bass accent, Morris added, “But that don’t matter, cuz I got that Southern accent! You know, it’s me, it’s me, it’s Ernest T.!
“That was the kind of gist of the language. Wonderful cast, terrific people, Andy, Don Knotts, and a young man named Ron Howard.”
In the years after the Griffith Show, Morris broadened his career as a vocal talent on animated programs such as The Flintstones.